Pressure on Brendan Rodgers is at an all-time high in his Anfield tenure, and Saturday’s clash with Aston Villa represents a win-or-bust match for the manager as he looks to save his job.
With his Liverpool future at the most uncertain it has ever been during his time in the Anfield hot-seat, Rodgers faces the biggest game of his Liverpool career on Saturday.
After a promising start saw the Reds then claim just one point out of the next three games, alongside an embarrassing performance and result in the League Cup against Carlisle, pressure on the Liverpool boss has reached boiling point.
Liverpool are struggling badly, already looking set for a season of disappointment, and Rodgers has one last chance to save his job, or at least buy some time, in Saturday’s make-or-break clash against Villa.
Come out with a negative result against Tim Sherwood’s poor side (again) and there is surely no way back.
A defeat to bogey side Villa is unthinkable – while a draw does nothing but add to the mounting pressure – and would likely see the point of no return for the Northern Irishman.
A win against a team who are unbeaten at Anfield since 2010 looks a much tougher proposition than it did before Wednesday’s 8pm kick-off, following the shambolic 120 minutes played with an almost first-choice team who have now had no rest ahead of the weekend’s vital game.
It shows the severity of the situation Rodgers finds himself in that he opted not to hand Jordan Rossiter, Jordon Ibe and the likes the chance for some invaluable first team action against the League Two minnows.
The selection – and constant formation switches – smacks of pure desperation for man who is trying his all for a win wherever he can find one, not that he can currently, simply to survive game-by-game but another without victory on Saturday makes it hard to see how he can continue.
But in amongst the conflicting reports of how in danger the Liverpool manager is, there appears a small ray of increasingly desperate hope from the owners that Rodgers can still be the man – signalled by the fact he is still in charge.
That faith does finally look to be wearing thin with developments, which were rejected by the club, that the owners approached Carlo Ancelotti to gauge his interest in the role. The fact reports of this nature are surfacing tells everything.
Regardless of how much hope there is left, and where it is stationed within the Anfield hierarchy, fail to beat 17th place Villa, who haven’t won since the opening weekend, and all will surely be lost.
The only question FSG need to ask is whether they think Rodgers can turn it around. All evidence suggests he can’t, especially last night.
— Matt Ladson (@mattladson) September 24, 2015
Those games pose a tough enough challenge for an in-form, firing side, never mind one that has scored only four goals in six league games – their joint lowest ever recorded total – and has amassed over a quarter of its points thanks to an offside goal that shouldn’t have stood.
If Rodgers and his side slump to a negative result against Sherwood’s men, how can it be expected that the Reds turn the season round in those looming matches and secure a healthy points total from them to keep within touching distance of the seasons’ minimum target of fourth place?
There’s little reason to assume they could in games that could genuinely see as few as two points won on current form, which would leave Liverpool cut adrift almost to the point of no comeback and another season written off by the end of October.
Turning the poor start around and getting back on track simply could not be expected if the Reds don’t see off Villa, adding to Norwich and embarrassingly, Carlisle, at Anfield – this is why Saturday is the win-or-bust clash it now is.
There would be zero hope or optimism left that it could yet still fall into place with anything less than a win, though the Carlisle shambles certainly put a sizeable hole in that dwindling faith anyway.
Beat Sherwood’s side and the Reds have the slim chance to gather some momentum when they face FC Sion on Merseyside next Thursday – a game which should see Liverpool win and the possibility of two victories from two.
They would hardly be game-changing results for the Liverpool boss, but it could offer a starting point for an upturn and a chance for a more positive outcome in fixtures ahead, beginning with the derby clash at Goodison Park which could see a positive result materialise just as equally as a negative.
On current form it seems almost impossible, however.
The only way the Liverpool boss is likely to be around to see if he can make those small steps of progress, and the beginning of a turnaround of fortunes, is if he has three points to his name come 5pm Saturday evening.
Rodgers suffered an embarrassing defeat to Sherwood at Wembley in last season’s FA Cup semi-final – the Reds manager can’t afford another that could prove the end of his Anfield career.
Fail to beat Aston Villa on Saturday and it could, or perhaps should, be game over.